Columbus Crew

Anatomy of a Goal: Cucho Hernandez opens up 2024 with a bang


Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from a previous Columbus Crew match. For match number one of the 2024 MLS season, we take a look at Cucho Hernandez’s 27th-minute goal that gave the Crew a 1-0 lead and delivered them to a season-opening win against Atlanta United.

Here is a look at Columbus’s first goal of the season.

The Black & Gold began their title-defending season at home facing off against one of the teams they knocked out of the 2023 playoffs–Atlanta United. All 11 starters in Saturday’s match were on the team in 2023 which is a testament to the consistency that Wilfried Nancy and Tim Bezbatchenko want to build in Columbus. Atlanta took the field looking for revenge and for a chance to build a path toward the 2024 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Hernandez’s goal begins with Atlanta in possession of the ball after a questionable foul call against the Crew.

The Fives Stripes’ Saba Lobzhanidze receives the ball and carries across midfield where he is met by Malte Amundsen.

Lobzhanidze attempts to cut the ball around Amundsen, but the left center-back gets a foot out and redirects the ball toward Darlington Nagbe and Yaw Yeboah.

Bartosz Slisz cuts toward the ball but Yeboah slides in, attempting to beat the midfielder to the ball.

Yeboah does just that, winning the ball and sending a pass on the ground toward Aidan Morris.

Morris receives the ball and looks to play a quick pass around Thiago Almada toward Amundsen. Nagbe also waits, ready to receive a pass.

Almada deflects Morris’s pass sending the ball right to Nagbe.

Nagbe receives the ball and immediately has three options: 1. a pass back to Morris; 2. carry the ball forward; or, 3. a long drop pass to Sean Zawadzki.

Columbus’ captain absorbs the pressure and defensive attention before playing a quick pass back to Morris.

Morris takes a few touches before switching the point of attack to Mohamed Farsi.

Farsi receives the ball with space to work and carries forward.

The right wing-back is met by Xande Silva, forcing him to turn back toward Morris near midfield.

Farsi plays the intelligent pass back to Morris.

Morris takes a touch to collect the ball and has six options with his second touch: 1. a long pass up the sideline toward Hernandez; 2. an attacking ball straight ahead back to Farsi; 3. carry the ball forward; 4. a switch of play toward Yeboah; 5. a short touch to Nagbe; or, 6. a drop back to Zawadzki.

With his second touch, Morris finds his midfield partner Nagbe.

Nagbe takes one touch before quickly dropping the ball back to Zawadzki.

Zawadzki takes a touch to collect the ball, a second touch to send the ball toward midfield, and then has five options with his third touch: 1. a switch of field play to Yeboah; 2. a short pass forward back to Nagbe; 3. carry the ball across midfield; 4. a quick ball forward to Morris; or, 5. a diagonal pass up the sideline to Hernandez.

Zawadzki picks his moment and hits a long, field-switching pass right to the feet of Yeboah.

Yeboah receives the ball and sets on the attack. To his right, Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, and Farsi all make attacking runs toward the 18 yard-box. Hernandez, dropping into the space vacated by Farsi, trails the play.

Yeboah carries forward and has two options: he can play an entry pass to Rossi or continue to carry forward.

The wing-back spots Rossi’s run and hits a pass out in front of the attacker.

Rossi nears the ball and tees up an important first touch. He can either fire a shot toward Brad Guzan’s goal or can play the ball on the ground into the path of Russell-Rowe, Farsi, and Hernandez.

From a tough angle, Rossi hits a low-driven pass across the face of the goal. Hernandez enters the penalty area in preparation to receive the ball if it makes its way through the scrum in the box.

Russell-Rowe lunges toward the ball but is unable to get a touch.

Guzan dives for the ball which takes an unlucky bounce into Guzan’s hand into the path of Hernandez.

Hernandez sprints toward the ball and likely the most open goal he has ever seen in his career.

Cucho smashes a shot toward the goal as two Atlanta defenders make a last-second play for the deflection.

Hernandez’s shot is on frame but will have to beat Caleb Wiley and Derrick Williams.

Wiley and Williams make a play but are too late as the ball zips past them . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. The Black & Gold benefited from some luck on this play. Deflected passes found an open man and Guzan’s attempted block teed the ball up perfectly for Hernandez. Still, you have to capitalize on those chances and the Crew did just that.
  2. Zawadzki’s long pass to Yeboah showed exactly how Columbus planned to attack the Five Stripes. The Black & Gold split the field in half, drawing Atlanta to one side before having a center-back or midfielder play a long pass to the opposite end of the field and setting off the counter-attack. This shift of play left Hernandez wide open on the back end (where the play began).
  3. Cucho does everything right on this play. He sees Farsi shift into the attack so he brings himself wide and drops back to replace his teammate. This shift leaves him in the perfect position to bag a game-winning goal.

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